We have previously reported that repeated central administration of sub-anxiogenic doses of the corticotropin releasing factor 1 (CRF(1)) agonist Cortagine, termed "priming," elicits a phenotype of increased anxiety-like behaviors in the elevated plus maze (EPM) and open-field test, and enhanced retention of contextual conditioned fear in C57BL/6J mice. Observed behavioral changes were functionally coupled to CRF(1)-mediated elevated central cholecystokinin (CCK) tone in discrete brain regions. However, the changes in gene expression that mediated "priming"-induced behavioral and concurrent molecular changes in specific brain regions remained unknown. In the present study, a complementary DNA microarray analysis was used to investigate gene expression profiles in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (PFC) of C57BL/6J mice following the "priming" procedure. Here, we report that chronic stimulation of CRF(1), by i.c.v. administration of 10 ng Cortagine for five days, brought about alterations in the expression of a wide range of hippocampal (31 genes) and PFC (18 genes) genes, implicated in anxiety and aversive memory formation. These expression changes involved genes associated with signal transduction, neurotransmitter secretion, synaptic transmission, myelination, and others involved in the transport, biosynthesis, and binding of proteins. In particular, several genes of the protein kinase A (PKA) and protein kinase C (PKC) signaling cascades, known to be involved in synaptic plasticity, such as neurogranin, calmodulin 3, and the PKA regulatory subunit 1 b were found to be upregulated in the PFC and hippocampus of CRF(1) agonist "primed" mice. Moreover, we show pharmacologically that one of the newly implicated memory regulatory elements, diazepam-binding inhibitor (DBI) is functionally involved in hippocampus-dependent enhancement of contextual fear, a cardinal phenotypic feature of the "primed" mice. Finally, an interaction network mapping of the altered genes and their known interacting partners identified additional molecular candidates responsible for CRF(1)-mediated hypersensitive fear circuitry.